Monday, December 30, 2013

When you visit Haiti short term...

... it can be easy to see Haitians living in poverty as innocent victims of horrible circumstances - lack of education, corrupt government, epidemics.   And that's very true.  Many people are blameless victims of very bad circumstances.

But personal responsibility plays a role too.  My friend Fifi came by today.  She is a merchant lady who used to sell fruit at the door when we lived in Deschapelles years ago.  She's a good saleswoman, but has fallen on hard times as the hospital has limited its services and there are few staff members to sell too.  But Fifi also has 8 children, diabetes and high blood pressure.  She was advised to stop having children after 3 because of her high blood pressure and yet, she has 8.  8 kids who she loves dearly, but can't provide well for and can't send to school without help.  I find it a complex situation when someones poor choices has led them to have more complex and deeper problems than they otherwise would.  But it doesn't limit the need for grace, the kind of grace I hope will be extended to me when I mess up again.  So I sent Fifi on her way with some small gifts, a bit of money to help pay for her kids schooling and goat so that hopefully she can sell the baby goats and have the means to get ahead a bit in life.

Fifi with Tevan & her goat

On a lighter note, I had the chance today to take the 5 big HATS kids along with Mariah and Ariane on our mountain hike early this morning.  It was a beautiful morning up on the hill above Deschapelles and as always the children loved our great adventures.

Ariane on the mountain

Deschapelles valley

Dieumima on the mountain

Dieunel on the mountain

JJ on the mountain

Leica on the mountain

Mariah on the mountain

Me on the mountain

Moise on the mountain

Morning mist above Deschapelles

The hiking gang

I just sat back down to finish this before I head to bed.  I had to take a 2 minute break to walk my big, strong, tough 18 year old son up the stairs because he's afraid of tree frogs jumping on him in the dark!  I don't know exactly how he thought I was going to protect him, but I was ready :)

My tough son Josiah

Liette

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Today I learned that I don't know much about goats or chickens!

Did you know that chickens get angry when they can't roost?  And of course they can't roost when they're tied by one leg to a post with a 30cm piece of twine.  For several birds, the cheap twine broke when they desperately tried to fly up to the arbour overhead at dusk.  All hell broke loose with myself and kids trying to chase them down and find something to tie them back up with.  One was out of reach, but luckily for us by the time we realized that it was quite dark so she just hunkered down for the night and didn't try to escape. 

Trying to keep the pesky chickens tied up tight

Ariane bravely holding a chicken

Young men receiving two chickens each

Did you know goats are almost as stubborn as donkeys?  Despite what Ariane believes, goats do not skip along behind you if you just ask them nicely.  They dig in their heels or outright lie down and refuse to move!  Especially after they've just been untied after traveling upside down tied to the side of a truck from market.  I did manage to get all of the goats from yesterday and today tied up behind the main house where they had shade and lots of grass to eat.  They made many people happy today when they came to pick them up. 

Goats in the yard

Leaving with a new goat

Josue very happy with his new goat

Later this afternoon, I had a chance to visit some very good friends, both of whom demonstrate integrity, grit, ingenuity and incredibly hard work every day.  Martha works here at the mission, but in order to secure her future, she always has at least one pig named Patience (or several) that she sells when they are fat enough.  She raises chickens to sell and is slowly, but surely, building a house in Verrettes that she can rent out for some regular income when she is ready to retire.  My other friend, Rigaud, works at the nearby hospital 6 days a week from 6am-2pm.  He then goes to his garden until dark, hoeing, weeding, irrigating etc.  He too has animals he breeds.  Uneducated and illiterate, both of them are using the gifts they have to secure their children's futures by sending them to school, which is expensive in Haiti. It is always humbling and inspiring to visit them. 

Josiah and Tevan are both sick today with fevers.  They've spent the entire day resting or sleeping.  I hope they are feeling better tomorrow.  I'm still not great, but am slowly improving (too slow for my liking). 

Tomorrow early am, I'm taking the big kids hiking which is a highlight of my visits here.  They asked me if we would hike almost as soon as I got out of the vehicle upon my arrival! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Random thoughts on our last day - by Dana

Unconditional love.  That’s what being here is about.

The kids love you to pieces, running up to you every day for hugs and sometimes just hanging by your side chillin.  Thrilled to get off the compound to go for a walk, happy to help with the goats and chickens or even just to pull burrs off towels or clothes.  Start a puzzle with 2 and soon there are 6 helping and laughing and cheering and showing you when they find a piece to put in.

The staff is amazing and accommodating, especially mom’s house help.  They work long long extra hours when we’re here without a word of complaint, they make your favorite foods and are so happy to see you enjoying it.  Even when you hide your plates so they won’t wash them (so they can go home early) they find them and insist on doing that for you.

As we said goodbyes in Devotions this morning the tears were flowing.

***

I miss my bed.  I moved out of my outdoor mosquito tent into a bedroom when Liette arrived.  Too many people, too much noise, plus I didn’t want my foghorn snore to wake anyone who isn’t my kids who are used to it.  Granted they probably wouldn’t even notice it among the voodoo drums and chanting well into the wee hours, the roosters cockadoodledooing, the dogs barking, the horns honking A LOT by 4am.  The indoor bed is a twin as well.  When I turn over my knee & arm scrape along the concrete wall or if I turn the other way I’m suspended partly in midair before I realize and whip myself the other way back into the bed.

4am honking. Drivers here honk A LOT.  It’s incredibly noisy here.  Instead of driving slower in a place where they know there is congestion they drive ahead at full speed while holding down the horn.  Honking here is not ‘honk’.  It’s ‘hoooooooooonnnnnnnnkkkkkkkkk’.  At 4am it’s even longer and continual for the next hour or so.  The locals who are not working & want to work get up early.  By 4am they are standing out at the roadside by the bridge (1 property away from the compound) with their hoe’s, hoping to get a days work.  4am honking is also the Bus or Tap Taps heading to Port Au Prince.  That’s the alarm clock for anyone in the area to hop up and race down to the bridge.

I’ll miss the simplicity of the concrete shower.  The point of a shower is to get us clean.  It works.

I’ll miss the hard mineral rich water.  It loves my skin and my hair.  I’ll also miss Leica styling my hair, feels so relaxing!

I’ll miss the humidity – I’ve not needed to put on cream or lip stuff since I got here.  I also haven’t put on a lick of makeup.  I love that.  What helps is that there aren’t a lot of mirrors, lol.

I’ll miss the food.  I’ll miss Pikliz, Soup Joumou, fresh squeezed juice and Akra.  Mostly I’ll miss someone cooking it for me!  

Jared will miss Germaine and how much she helped his back when his ribs go out.

Jared "enjoying" Germaine

I LOVED taking care of the chickens.  Good thing since I’ll have 26 of my own next summer!   We had 21 chickens here, 20 went to homes.  The one remaining chicken got the royal treatment of a triple long string so it could hop to the top of the concrete blocks.  Then he was gone.  What?  Where?  I’m the chicken lady, nobody came to see me!!  I ask mom ‘hey, where’s my chicken?’ She explains that it went to Luckner’s so that we wouldn’t be interrupted during our Christmas dinner.  I explain that it had a triple rope on it…. OH shoot!  String is in short supply and we just lost enough string to hold 3 chickens!  There will be another 80ish chickens arriving here over the next month…  Those 3 pieces of string are important to us!

I’ll miss the teeny hugs and kisses of little Sandra.  She is such a sweetheart, until she’s not getting her own way.  Then lookout!

We’ll all miss the bright smile, laughter and sense of humor of my brother ‘Ti Luc’

Ti Luc (my brother) with his nephew (my son Ronel)

I’ll miss my mom & my sis and our laughter.  More of that to follow next year in Canada, hopefully.

I won’t miss 7am wakeup for 7:30 devotions.  Devotions would be much better at 10am.  I won’t miss the smell of burning garbage.

Morning devotions at HATS

I will miss the lush green everything, fresh coconuts & ti banana and children’s laughter/love.  By the time you're reading this I'm already in the air winging my way back home.  :(

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas at the HATS-Haiti Mission.

Our Christmas this year is special and fun due to having Dana with her children - Jared, Ronel and Alexa; and Liette with her children - Mariah, Josiah, Ariane and Tevan here with our HATS family.  Lots of happy noise and fun.  My Haitian family loves to spend time with my Canadian family and I think it is safe to say the feeling is mutual.

Having my Canadian family with us meant a Christmas photo of the children and I could be done this year while we were celebrating Jesus' birth.  I was thankful for the photo but my heart was heavy due to Vladimy not being in it with us.  It was a bitter sweet Christmas celebration.

Karen and children Christmas 2013

I know that many of you have been praying for Vladimy as well as for us who are greatly missing him.  Thank you for this prayer support.  Luckner and I were able to visit with Vladimy last week.  We were thankful to see some improvements.  We will be going to the hospital again tomorrow, Thursday,  in hopes of seeing him, even though it is not a visiting day.  Our double family- (Haitian and Canadian) Christmas together is fun but it is just not the same without Vladimy.

Last night this 'Newfie' lady decided we needed to do some mummering here on the compound.  It was a lot of fun.  Our little Jonathan was the only one who was not quite sure, even to the end, that we were his family and we were having fun.

Once a Newfie, always a Newfie. Mummering fun at the mission in Haiti.

JJ, Moise, and Tevan going mummering at HATS

It did not take too long for Ti Sandra to figure things out.  Before long she was running around in her pyjamas with one of the pillow case masks covering her face.

Ti Sandra got into the act too.

Tomorrow I will lose part of my family as Dana and her three children, who arrived five days before Liette, head back to Canada.  It is so very exciting to have them arrive and so very difficult to see them leave. 

Dana has done a ton of things while here that, has made, and will continue to make, life a lot easier for her mama.   Thank you, Dana.  Thank you, too, for coming with Jared, Ronel, and Alexa so we could spend Christmas together Haitian style. Thank you to all four of you for all the help in many ways, for all the time spent with the children, for making more special memories that will stay with them.  

Thank you for coming along side and helping us keep HATS moving forward for the children.

I t    I S    ALL    ABOUT    THE    CHILDREN

Karen 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the HATS house,
not a creature was stirring,
not even a cockroach
(did someone say cockroach, Karen is coming with the bug spray!)
Outside, the churchgoers are singing,
their hands in the air,
in the hopes that Baby Jesus
soon will be there.
The drums are a beating,
the dancers are swaying,
the party is swinging as
Christmas rings in.
The goats are a bleating,
the dogs are a barking
and roosters are crowing
for Christmas this year.
The HATS kids are all tucked
in their beds fast asleep,
while visions of rice and beans
dance in their sleep.
While I in my pj's
finish the blog,
I think "Oh how I wish
I could just see a frog".
While you imagine that sight,
I say Merry Christmas to all
and to all a good night!

Enjoy the lovely photos of some of the children opening their Christmas gifts - everyone was happy and thrilled with what they received. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Liette

Jofky

Jonathan

Judel

Moise

Sandra

Ti Luc

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's Liette here.

I'm out of bed today and feeling a bit better after a full day of rest yesterday.  Today I feel like I've been run over by a van instead of a bus :) 

Ariane & Sandra

Dana's blogs have been so funny and full of interesting information, that I'm a bit intimidated in following her so this will be short and sweet.

Birthday greetings for Alexa after morning devotions

Sunday we had the chance to participate in the Christmas service at the church.  Church was to start at 2 pm.  By 2:30, we had about 2 dozen people milling around and the singing began.  By 3 pm, we had about 80 people and by 3:15 pm, there were close to 200 people in church.  The service consisted of lots of beautiful choral singing, a less-than-inspiring mini-sermon by yours truly, some great special songs prepared by some individuals and groups and prayer.  The most inspirational moment was a special song sang by my godson, Josue, on the one-year anniversary of the motorcycle accident that killed his older brother and seriously injured Josue.  He sang with joy and gratitude in the face of incredible tragedy in his life. 

Ariane in church

After church, we handed out small gifts to everyone from preschool to adults who attended the service with some school supplies, little gifts, snacks, candies and pop.  It was a LONG process and by the time we were done at 6 pm, we were handing out gifts in the dark. 

Boys happy with their gifts

Dana handing gifts

Happy boy with gifts

Happy preschoolers

Jared handing out gifts

Karen handing out gifts

Tevan and Alexa handing out gifts

Yesterday the kids played together and the IMKH school had their Christmas party with rice and beans and pop for everyone, music and dancing.  Turns out Ronel, my sister's son, is quite a fine dancer! 

Preparing lunch for school party

Dancing at the party

Mariah & Luckner dancing

Today we will celebrate Christmas with staff gifts this morning, a shared meal with the children's home this afternoon and then gifts for the children.  Everyone is excited.  The staff (besides the house moms) will be off from noon today until Dec 26th.

We'll post photos of the party later today.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The one who's name we cannot say...

Little Sandra here LOVES Dickie. Uncle Dickie to me. Every day since he was here in Oct she asks my mom when he's coming back.

We arrived last week, when Sandra saw that people arrived and Dickie was not with us, she sobbed and sobbed.

Liette and kids arrived today and we quickly went off to church. Sandra sat by herself, sucking her thumb, with tears running down her cheeks for the first hour (Haitian church takes more than an hour to get started! - Haiti time)

We cannot mention Dickie's name around her or she starts crying again. We now call him Uncle Voldemort.

For the history on this love affair, check out this prior blog: http://hatshaiti.blogspot.com/2013_11_01_archive.html

Dickie & Sandra

Madame No!

Today is Sunday. Madame No! left here very early to get to the airport to pick up my sister & her kids, so I figured today was a good day to blog about her.

This is the name the airport ‘porters’ have given my mother. Anyone who has ever flown in to volunteer here probably know exactly where this is going and are chuckling already! Right?

So Haiti’s airport used to be super small, super scary, body to body people with one carousel for sometimes 2-3 jumbo jets to unload bags onto. You were lucky if you could move, mostly you hoped not to be squashed. That was 10 years ago.

Now they have ‘porters’. These are men permitted to wear the uniform to hope to help you with your bags. Unfortunately ‘helping’ can mean, ‘I walked beside your bags and touched them, so now I get a Kado’. And LOTS of them can sneak a hand onto your bags to ‘help’. Some will actually help, ALL will wish to be paid.

So my mom says NO to everyone who tries to help. She picks out one person, tells them they are hired and that they have to share with anyone else who helps, so then they of course try to keep everyone else from ‘helping’.

As I landed I realized, I had NO US money and the Haiti airport doesn’t have a cart holder that will take a cc, it’s a lady at a stand. So no cart for me. I can’t speak Creole so I can’t pick one guy to help and can’t pay anyone anyway, so I do the next best thing. Lex and I whip off our long sleeve shirts we had on (the plane was cold as is Miami airport – word of warning if you ever fly through Miami!) and tie 3 bags together to make a train. The boys pulling the trains don’t have nearly the same enthusiasm for my invention!

Train 1

Train 2

As we’re leaving and porters come toward us I tell them no and no and no, and stop people from touching our bags. I see my mom right outside, more porters come toward us I see one put a hand out to another and say something in Creole that ends in No. I’m impressed and confused. Later as we sit in the van my mom tells me she is now infamous at the airport as Madame No! LOL, that’s awesome!

Oh, and check out this ‘safe’ and totally illegal vehicle parked across from us at the airport. Police were standing beside us looking at it and then left. Don’t want to be on the road when this joker is!

You gotta be kidding me

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Life is different here

In many ways Haiti is just like Canada. In many ways, it is different.

Here’s a few examples of the differences:

Housing... My mom’s house is not a typical Haitian house, it’s nicer, although far far from Cdn standards. An average poor Haitian house is 4 walls, one room, a thatch or metal roof. Middle class may have a dirt courtyard and more than one room house. Rich Haitians have more substantial fancy homes with inlaid tile and frou frou things.

Spiders are MUCH bigger. Tarantulas are common. Those are killed as soon as my mom has a photo, she knows how much my Aunt Sandra ‘adores’ them.

Cold water is never cold. Cold water is water straight out of the buckets on the roof, that have been in the heat all day. Cold is more like lukewarm/cool.

We shower here, thankfully. The shower is a concrete structure with a pipe where the water comes out, too many minerals for a shower head. Sure gets the job done and with the heat you rarely want to use the warm water, you’re thankful for a cool shower. For those following my Facebook renovation thread… how much do I wish my shower in my new home had been built this way?? Built to last!

shower spout

Shower

Lightbulbs are strange here. It makes having fancy light fixtures irrelevant, I guess the rich Haitians must bring in light fixtures and bulbs from the states. The longer the bulb the more wattage, some have 8” bulbs!

Light bulbs - This is low wattage!

Window glass doesn’t happen here, at least not panes like we’re used to. There are glass slats you could close if it’s windy or during rainy season and mom has screens. Other Haitians would have concrete blocks window blocks to allow in light

You don’t put lights over your dinner table or desk or bed. Any guesses how come? Even with window screens small no-see-em types get through the screens and REALLY like the light. Sometimes they’re here by the hundreds, like tonight. After they buzz around the light a bit they die and fall down. You don’t want that in your food, on your bed etc. Just walking under a light tonight I had 2 land in my Baileys. I don’t share well!

Paper under light to show carnage

Electricity... so at home, we pay a bill and electricity flows into our home. In Haiti EDH is the gov’t electricity and it’s rare that you actually get any. The rest of the time HATS operates by generator. When the generator is on the well pump runs and fills the big water tanks on the roof, the laundry is done and the inverter batteries charge. Then the generator goes off and we run on battery for a bit. Typically the generator runs for a few hours each morning and afternoon. If the generator runs too long the roof tanks overflow and of course too much gas is consumed. If they run on battery too long they’re drained and we have no lights. It’s a delicate balance.

Kids here are thankful! We’re doing up 150 presents for the kids that show up at church tomorrow. Most of them are a pen, pencil, notebook, ball, small toy or stuffy, bracelet, some stickers & a soap or shampoo or toothbrush. The older kids got a calculator, ruler. Each child will also get a pop, bag of cheezies and a candy bag. They will be thrilled. It’s likely the only gifts they’ll get.

Ready to make gift bags

In Canada the bank throws out the money that’s been beat to a snot. Here it’s handed back to you when you get money from the bank. I did the payroll today and both of these bills came right out of a bank roll. Others were worse. Some had 1/3 of the bill missing and some were so grungy they grossed me out to even touch them. I washed my hands A LOT!

Banks issue trashed money

The food is simple and divine. I could eat Haitian food forever. Mom has an amazing woman, Germaine, who helps out with TiLuc and cooks for groups etc. Even Jared, my non-eater, has stated that we should have Rice and Beans every day at home. Picklies, Sauce Poi, Fried Chicken (no breading and soooo good), Plantain, Eggplant Gratinee, Militon Gratinee. Fresh coconut, fresh squeezed juice. Amazing ti banane (mini bananas).

People carry on their heads. It’s SO much better for the posture than hunched over carrying bags or having a backpack pulling on your shoulders and neck!

best way to carry!

People sit in the bed of the trucks. As many as you can fit. We fit 26 in mom’s truck two years ago. Every errand my mom goes on the kids beg to go to so they can sit in the back of the truck.

Going on errands

Mom has Germaine. OMG, so jealous. I got up at 10am today (I’m writing this Friday, the day after the mountain trek). At 10am I could barely sit up. My lower back was screaming, although in a good ‘wow, you balanced on a ‘machin’ for 5 hrs on a horrendous mountain road and I’m here reminding you’ kind of way. So as long as I don’t move, I feel ok. MY back was my only owie upon awakening, inflamed upper back and ‘we’re core muscles you should use more’ lower back. It’s now 10pm. WAY past bedtime in Haiti. And I’d go to bed, although that involves going upstairs. In the past few hours my thighs have announced they were on the trek too. I can barely get myself to the bathroom, how will I get up the stairs? Anyway, I digress. Germaine. I slowly and carefully walked into the kitchen at 10am, a little embarrassed… Germaine offers me pancakes, I say I’ll eat the leftover oatmeal (cause I don’t want her to cook for me). I take it from the fridge, she takes it from me and turns to the microwave. Since the microwave is unplugged and you have to bend down to plug it in I gratefully leave her at it and go say Hi to mom. Next thing I know hot oatmeal and bowl of fresh fruit have appeared at my desk in mom’s office (where I am much of the day tackling my ‘Dana do list’). I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I ask Jared to get me a glass of cold water and before he could even move…there appears Germaine with a glass of water for me. She anticipated and tackled. I’d like to steal her. Don’t tell mom!!